Mark Kruzan emphatically re-iterated his opposition to a new-terrain I-69 highway in a statement issued Saturday.
"I oppose a new terrain highway from Indianapolis to Evansville," the mayoral candidate and former Indiana House Majority Leader said in an e-mail to The Bloomington Alternative. "More pavement is not synonymous with progress, especially when it's through farmland and forest."
The language in Kruzan's statement is consistent with his position over the past several years, and some comes from letters he has previously sent the governor and the Indiana Department of Transportation. While in the House, he voted against a resolution supporting an I-69 extension and helped kill legislation that would have given INDOT additional eminent domain powers to expedite highway construction.
Kruzan said he simply does not accept that the purported economic benefits that supporters say will accrue from a new-terrain route would outweigh its negative social and environmental impacts.
"I respect the opinions of those people who believe the road will be an economic engine," Kruzan said. "A new highway may well help the economies of some communities along its path, but the extent of the benefits is not a certainty. What is certain is the permanent devastation that would result from a new-terrain path."
Kruzan cited several reasons for his opposition, including the out-of-pocket costs to taxpayers. He believes the project could ultimately cost $2 billion.
"That is a lot of money to save 15 minutes," he said. "Given the dramatic under-funding of Indiana's existing roads and bridges, it's difficult to understand the state's highway priorities."
Kruzan also questions the notion that highways are the answer to job creation. Even though the state is dense with highways and is called the "Crossroads Of America," Indiana suffers from "brain drain" and continues losing jobs, he said.
"It's clear roads alone are not the key to economic development," he said. "Crawford County is one of the poorest counties in the state despite the fact I-64 runs through it. Lake County has numerous struggling communities despite the convergence of I-80, 90, and 94."
Kruzan also argues that transforming Bloomington into an Interstate community would adversely impact citizens' day-to-day life experiences.
"The quality of life in Bloomington is what makes our community unique," he said. "An interstate threatens that quality."
Indeed, Kruzan said I-69 cannot be the foundation for this community's economic well-being.
"Even if it is built, it's at least a decade away from being built," he said. "To contend that jobs and economic progress hinge upon I-69's construction is an abdication of responsibility for those priorities until at least 2014.
"We should be deciding now, not 10 years from now, what we want Bloomington to look like in the future. An interstate dividing us is not a part of my vision."